Mugabe movie premieres in Harare

HARARE - A new film which profiles Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe will premiere in Harare today.

The documentary titled Villain or Hero? traces how one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders mutated from being the darling of the West into a “villain.”

Directed by London-based Ghanaian filmmaker Roy Agyemang, the documentary on the controversial Zanu PF strongman was filmed over a three-year period and explores the true extent of Mugabe’s support in Zimbabwe.

The film, which also features a rare interview with the octogenarian leader, will be showcased at No. 57 Mazowe Street.

The documentary to be premiered before a limited audience in the Zimbabwe capital city today was recently screened at the Pan African Film Festival and at other venues in the United States of America and the United Kingdom.

Agyemang says the bitter-sweet relationship between African leaders and the West inspired him to explore how this often fractured relationship plays a part in Africa’s perpetual poverty.

“Mugabe was once a darling of the West, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, knighted by the Queen in 1994 and awarded several honorary doctorates from established institutions in America and Europe,” says the Ghanaian.

“I was intrigued to find out at what point the West’s relationship with Mugabe turned sour.”

Agyemang who took almost two years to get an interview with Mugabe due to Harare’s mistrust says the objective of the documentary is to show the consequences of an African leader’s attempt to take control of his country’s natural resources.

“The Western view of Zimbabwe and its president has been consistently negative over the last 12 years.

“It was important for me to listen to the views of Zimbabweans — black, white, young and old — and get a less sensationalist view of their country,” he said adding that even those who disagree with Mugabe’s polices disapprove the West’s “propaganda” against Zimbabwe.

“It was also critical to get the views of African leaders. It makes compelling viewing: the opposing views of African and Western leaders,” said Agyemang.

The film recently received the Special Recognition Jury Award at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Agyemang, however, insists the film does not in any way seek to answer the question whether Mugabe is indeed a villain or hero.

“I live in the UK, where Mugabe is viewed as a villain. Spending three years on the ground, which also included travelling around Africa, I heard many people state that Mugabe is a hero,” he said.

Agyemang claims his film is presented in a way where the viewers can make up their own mind.

“African leaders that don’t conform to Western ideology are more often than not perceived as villains.

“It is only when they die that they are remembered as heroes, just like the great Kwame Nkrumah,” he said. - John Kachembere

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